Cover Reveal: Anna Butler’s The Jackal’s House (Lancaster’s Luck #2)(excerpt and major giveaway)

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Pre Order Ebook: Dreamspinner  Pre Order Paperback: Dreamspinner
 
Cover Design: Reese Dante
 
Length: 111,600 words
 
Lancaster’s Luck Series
 
The Gilded Scarab (Book #1) Amazon US | Amazon UK | Dreamspinner
 
Blurb
 

Something is stalking the Aegyptian night and endangering the archaeologists excavating the mysterious temple ruins in Abydos. But is it a vengeful ancient spirit or a very modern conspiracy…

Rafe Lancaster’s relationship with Gallowglass First Heir, Ned Winter, flourishes over the summer of 1900, and when Rafe’s House encourages him to join Ned’s next archaeological expedition, he sees a chance for it to deepen further. Since all the Houses of the Britannic Imperium, Rafe’s included, view assassination as a convenient solution to most problems, he packs his aether pistol—just in case.

Trouble finds them in Abydos. Rafe and Ned begin to wonder if they’re facing opposition to the Temple of Seti being disturbed. What begins as tricks and pranks escalates to attacks and death, while the figure of the Dog—the jackal-headed god Anubis, ruler of death—casts a long shadow over the desert sands. Destruction follows in his wake as he returns to reclaim his place in Abydos. Can Rafe and Ned stand against both the god and House plots when the life of Ned’s son is on the line?

 
About The Series
 

The Gilded Scarab
The Jackal’s House

Lancaster’s Luck is set in a steampunk world where, at the turn of the 20th century, the eight powerful Convocation Houses are the de facto rulers of the Britannic Imperium. In this world of politics and assassins, a world powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston and where aeroships fill the skies, Captain Rafe Lancaster, late of Her Majesty’s Imperial Aero Corps, buys a coffee house in one of the little streets near the Britannic Museum in Bloomsbury.

So begins the romantic steampunk adventures which have Rafe, a member of Minor House Stravaigor, scrambling over Londinium’s rooftops on a sultry summer night or facing dire peril in the pitch dark of an Aegyptian night. And all the while, sharing the danger is the man he loves: Ned Winter, First Heir of Convocation House Gallowglass, the most powerful House in the entire Imperium.



Find out more about the Lancasterís Luck books and the world of Rafe and Ned


Excerpt

I like kissing.

Like Ned, I’d spent years in hiding. His constraint had been matrimony and the sense of honor and duty that would never have allowed him to be unfaithful to the mother of his sons. Only her untimely death had released those bonds. Mine had been less noble: I had no desire for a court-martial and a dishonorable discharge from Her Imperial Majesty’s Aero Corps. Most of my encounters over the years had been quick and furtive, but I’d taken every chance I could to practice my technique.

I not only liked kissing, I was good at it.

Fast little kisses to start with, kisses that barely made contact with the skin of Ned’s throat, kisses meant to tease. He tilted his head back to let me in, closing his eyes. His mouth opened on a soft sigh. I hoped he was giving himself up to the pleasure, losing himself in it, that nothing mattered to him at that moment except the feel of my mouth on his throat and lips. I hoped so. I wanted to please him.

I kissed and licked the delicate skin under his ear until he choked with laughter at the tickling. He tightened his grip on my hands and tugged at them until I raised my head. Ha! He’d lulled me into trusting him there and took full advantage of it. He swooped to capture my mouth with his, cutting off breath and thought, bringing a dizzying warmth with his hot tongue, and making me moan.

Of course, they were very manly moans.

 

Giveaway

Pre-order The Jackal’s House and send a copy of the email confirmation (or a screengrab of it) to annabutlerfiction@gmail.com and

(i) Anna will send you the first chapter and some deleted scenes by email. The deleted scenes will be exclusive until the end of the year; and

(ii) Your name will be entered in a draw for

1st prize—a signed paperback of the first Lancaster’s Luck book, the Gilded Scarab.

2nd prize— a Gilded Scarab travel coffee mug.

3rd prize— an Anubis pendant.

Winners will be announced on publication day.

Extra goodies:

(i) If you’re one of the first 15 people to respond, you’ll also get a little bag of Jackal loot, a cool Anubis temporary tattoo and a matching Anubis brooch;

(ii) One of the next 30? You’ll get a bag of loot and a tattoo.


About Anna
 

Anna was a communications specialist for many years, working in various UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to organizing conferences for 10,000 civil servants to running an internal TV service. These days, though, she is writing full time. She recently moved out of the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London to the rather slower environs of a quiet village tucked deep in the Nottinghamshire countryside, where she lives with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockerpoo.


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A Free Dreamer Review: Native Wind (Native Ingenuity: First Chronicle) by A.M. Burns

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Native WindAfter his family is killed by thieves, sole survivor Trey McAlister is taken in by a nearby Comanche clan. Trey has a gift for magic and the clan’s shaman, Singing Crow, makes him an apprentice. While learning to control his powers, Trey bonds with a young warrior and shape shifter, Grey Talon. When they are sent out on a quest to find the missing daughter of a dragon, they encounter the same bandits who murdered Trey’s family, as well as a man made of copper who drives Trey to dig deeper into the magics that created him.

It doesn’t take them long to discover a rancher near Cheyenne, Wyoming is plotting to build a workforce of copper men—and has captured the dragon’s daughter they’ve been searching for. Trey and Grey Talon must draw on all their knowledge and skills to complete their quest—one that grows more complicated, and more dangerous, with each passing day.

“Native Wind” is an interesting mix of Western, Steampunk and Native American mythology. That’s definitely not a mix I’ve come across before, so I was hopeful.

Grey Talon is a very unusual shifter with his ability to turn into any animal he’s ever laid eyes on. Trey’s shaman magic was also very interesting and I loved the time Trey spent practicing it.

Both MCs were very likeable and their bond was obvious. I liked that they were a couple from the start of the book, which left more room for plot outside the romance. There was no need for explanations and flashbacks, their love for each other felt completely natural.

There were a couple of unique minor characters as well, like Copperpot, the metal construct, or Singing Crow, Trey’s shaman teacher.

The great villain, however, was needlessly evil. I don’t like it when the villains only ever do evil things and the MCs only ever do good things. I like my shades of grey. At times, it was also hard to understand certain actions of Grey Talon and Trey. They didn’t always make all that much sense.

The world building was a little lacking. While there were a lot of scenes of Trey talking about and practicing his magic, little things were left unexplained. I’m still uncertain just how Grey Talon communicated in animal form.

I would have also enjoyed a bit more Steampunk. Sure, there was Copperpot, who became a loyal companion of the two, but that’s about it. The world itself didn’t have many steam powered machines.

I’m not sure I entirely understood the part dragons play in this world. They’re definitely nothing like any dragons I’ve come across in literature before.

Overall, “Native Wind” had promise but didn’t quite live up to it. The plot didn’t really grip me. I wasn’t exactly bored, but I never quite felt the urge that I absolutely had to know what happened next. I probably won’t read the sequel.

 The cover by Stef Masciandaro shows a drawing of our four heroes, with Trey shifted into a dog and a dragon looming in the background.

Sales Links:  DSP Publications | Amazon

Book details:

ebook, 216 pages
Expected publication: July 19th 2016 by DSP Publications
ISBN 1634765532 (ISBN13: 9781634765534)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Free Dreamer Review: The Empty Hourglass (Deal with a Devil) by Cornelia Grey

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

The Empty HourglassThomas Escott has always wanted to be a toymaker, yet just as he achieves his dream, an accident claims his right hand. He’s certain his life is over—until he hears about groundbreaking prosthetics being made by a reclusive inventor.

Jethro Hastings is perfectly content to live alone up in the mountains working on a secret masterpiece: a humanoid automaton that will change the scientific community forever. He’s behind schedule, and the date of the unveiling is fast approaching, so when Thomas shows up on his doorstep offering help in exchange for a mechanical hand, Jethro agrees. Time, after all, is running out on another deal he’s made: one with the devil.

The devil gives Jethro’s inventions life, but he can just as quickly take life away—Jethro’s, to be exact. As the sand in the devil’s hourglass falls, marking the time until the end of the deal, inventions go haywire, people get hurt, and Thomas realizes he needs Jethro just as much as his prosthetic. Now he must find a way to save Jethro’s soul, but negotiating with a devil is just as difficult as it sounds.

Review: First of all, while this is part of a series, “The Empty Hourglass” is a stand alone. Every book set in the “Deal with a Devil” universe can be read independently. They only have one minor character in common.

I was really looking forward to this book. I absolutely loved the first short story of this universe, “Devil at the Crossroads”, and “The Circus of the Damned” was pretty good too. And when there was a promise of a freaky, steampunky prosthetic, I was ecstatic. Apparently I have a real thing for that. Anyway, my expectations were very high and unfortunately the book couldn’t quite live up to them.

I liked that Thomas was a bit of an underdog. I would’ve liked to read more about his background, though. It’s not every day you meet somebody who grew up on the streets and then turned into a toy maker of all things in your M/M books. That could have made for a really interesting story, but unfortunately the author didn’t really use that potential.

Jethro is your typical eccentric inventor: Kind of grumpy and a bit of a weird loner, but with a good heart and a tragic past to boot. His characterization was a little shallow, leaving him with little depth and a lot of stereotypes.

One of the reasons why I loved the other two books in this universe is the sex. Cornelia Grey can write incredibly sensual, delightfully different sex scenes. Unfortunately, this time she chose to leave the sex non-explicit, which is a real shame. I usually don’t mind fade-to-black scenes, but I was really looking forward to how and if the author would incorporate the prosthetic. That unfortunately didn’t happen here and I was a little disappointed, to be honest.

I loved that Cornelia Grey actually decided to have a real ghost show up. I’ve never seen a similar take on ghosts and mysticism. That was really well done. But again, a little more detail would have been really nice.

The world building was unfortunately rather lacking. There’s talk about a big war that happened a few years back. Thomas was even recruited as an engineer and the experience seems to have left some deep impressions. There are also a lot of veterans who were injured during said war. However, we never do find out any details about the war. Who fought against whom? And why? For how long? And so on. I really expected more details since it played such an important role in the story.

The ending felt a little forced, as if the author realized she had to write a happy end of some sort and hastily came up with a magical solution for it all.

Overall, this was the weakest book of the series so far. It lacked in details and didn’t even have any of Grey’s usually sizzling hot sex scenes. It seems like the series gets weaker with every new book the author writes. A shame, because “Devil at the Crossroads” was simply amazing. But now I finally want a book solely about Farfarello, the devil everybody’s making deals with.

Cover: I don’t particularly like the cover by Jay Asher. It doesn’t really fit with the other two books, which have absolutely gorgeous covers. There’s just too much brown for my liking and the picture looks kind of blurry.

Sales Links:   Riptide Publishing | ARe | Amazon  other links to  come

Book details:

ebook, 264 pages
Expected publication: April 9th 2016 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleThe Empty Hourglass
ISBN139781626493933
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesDeal with a Devil

A MelanieM Review: Blood and Clockwork by Katey Hawthorne

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Blood and ClockworkAlistair Click set out to lay to rest the superstitious fears about the Mad Prince’s clockwork tower. If that meant he might bring the ghost city of Avalonia back to economic life, connecting the western kingdoms once again, so much the better. So what if no adventurer who’d entered the tower in the last century of desolation had ever re-emerged? They didn’t have his skill and wit. He could do better.

The tower turns out to be far more than Alistair expected, however. Not only are there clockwork puzzles to open every door, but one of them drops a boy from a strange world into his lap–figuratively speaking, if only just. Marco Murphy was just gaming in his New Jersey apartment, and now he’s stuck in what feels like a never ending LARP nightmare.

The deeper they delve into the Mad Prince’s tower, the darker the secrets they uncover. They’re not entirely sure they’ll ever be able to get out again, either. It’ll take all Marco’s charm and Alistair’s cleverness, plus the strange bond growing between them, to get them out together… and alive.

When I finished Katey Hawthorne’s Blood and Clockwork, several things popped immediately to mind.  First?  What a spectacular world and engrossing plot! That Mad Prince’s clockwork tower?  Spellbinding…literally. Step by step, I was peering over the shoulders of those wonderful characters, Alistair and Marco as they carefully maneuvered their way thru the mechanisms the Mad Prince has laid out before them.  Be prepared to hold your breath.

And right on the heels of that thought?  More, there needs to be more.

From the moment I meet brave, enterprising Alistair entering the deserted town of Avalonia, the reader comprehends he is someone special.  How special emerges as the story unfolds.   He wants the secrets to the Mad Prince’s clockwork tower that never seems to wind down, even centuries later in the middle of a city devoid of life.  Others have tried and never returned.  Alistair is determined to be the first.  Be prepared to fall deeply in loved with this character.  He’s intelligent, non-judgmental and open to life’s possibilities.  Also very brave which helps with what’s about to come.

Surprisingly, the tower has another occupant.  A visitor from another dimension.  Marco, an artist from our world.  Charming, easy going, intelligent and a perfect match for Alistair in ways that Alistair is not prepared for, this includes sexually.  For Alistair is asexual and the discussion had between them is thoughtful, easy and open,  another wonderful element here.  Marco is stuck in the tower and has no way home.  Together they must work as a team to solve the tower’s puzzles in order to send Marco home and let Alistair solve the riddle of the tower.

Sounds simple but its anything but as the terrific narrative will show.  Marco will pull in some of his skills from his home world, Alistair will use his, and the combination is lovely, imaginative, occasionally funny, and heartwarming.

When the story finished, I was happy yes, but not completely satisfied.  I wasn’t done with these two or their world.  I felt as though we had just gotten started with each  other.  Surely this was but the first in many adventures right?  Katey Hawthorne?  Are you listening?  With their combination of talents, surely  more stories and adventures are to follow?  Just let me know.  I’ll be ready to join in the fun or horror or both.

Cover art is beautiful yet horrific and works within the framework of the story.

Sales links:  Less Than Three Press | ARe | Amazon link coming

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: March 16th 2016 by Less Than Three Press
ISBN139781620047392
Edition LanguageEnglish

 

 

In Our Book Spotlight: Jeanne Marcella’s The Phoenix Embryo (Seasons of the Phoenix #1) (contest)

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spotlight on booksThe Phoenix Embryo (Seasons of the Phoenix #1)
Author Jeanne Marcella
Release Date: January 2015
Goodreads Link

PhoenixEmbryo-800 Cover reveal and Promotional

 

Author Bio:

Jeanne Marcella was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Granted unlimited access to books at a very early age via the library, she quickly acquired a fondness for creating her own stories through word and drawing.

Going against the grain of mainstream top ten fantasy, she writes eccentric, GLBTQ dark fantasy dramas not for the faint of heart.

Currently, she reworks her first novel about half-breed centaurs into a 2nd edition.

Our Author Mini Q and A!

Q. Three things on your bucket list?

I only have two: Write my books, and get back into drawing.

Q. You meet a time traveler who will take you ‘anywhen’. Do you go to the past or the future?

That’s a tough one. Would I go back in time and be Da Vinci’s apprentice, or finally learn the truth of all those Bigfoot and ancient astronaut conspiracy theories? Decisions decisions.

Q. Cake or pie? Cake

Q. Dog or cat? I’m a cat person now.

Where to find the author:
Blog: https://aforgeofphoenix.wordpress.com/
Website: http://www.JeanneMarcella.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeanne.marcella.98
(I unpublished my FB fan page)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AForgeOfPhoenix
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/GoddessTriad/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/110464796341873472652/posts
Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/user/AForgeOfPhoenix

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Publisher: Jeanne Marcella
Cover Artist: Streetlight Graphics

Sales Links: 

The Phoenix Embryo Synopsis:

Twelve-and-a-half-year-old Acanthus Breese and his yellow-robed peers have survived without an adult presence for seven years. They’ve scavenged. Endured madness, starvation, and murder after the adults imprisoned and abandoned them without a backward glance. They’ve clawed their way to civilization and questionable sanity at the guidance of one of their own.

Thirteen-year-old Edward Dasheel is a direct descendant of the goddess Staritti and the red phoenix god, Dasheel. Because of Edward’s love and leadership, Acanthus and the other boys know that despite their regretful crime of harming Staritti and driving her away, hope for redemption remains. 

Acanthus knows Edward better than anyone; he knows Edward hides dark secrets about their exile, the adults, and specifically about him. So it is terrifying when suddenly the adults return, pushing themselves back into their lives. What do they want after all these years? And why?

Categories: Bisexual, Dark Fantasy, Fiction, Gay Fiction, Drama, M/M Romance, Steampunk, For Mature Readers

Excerpt from The Phoenix Embryo…


Acanthus danced around in a chaotic circle, waving his arms and pointing out the window. “Dee! He took Minos. He had wings! He flew! Priests! By Staritti, there were adults in Regrets!”

“Shh. Shhh. It’s all right.”

“How can it be all right?” Acanthus yelled. He paced. He prowled. He was helpless. Edward made no move to restrain him. “They throw us away, ignore us, and then pick us off! How much more can we endure? You know we’ll never see Minos again, Dee! We’ll never see him again! Just like all the others!”

“I know,” Edward answered in a helpless, grating whisper.

“Minos didn’t have anyone,” Acanthus said to himself. “No one, for the last seven years. I feel so bad; I could’ve done something. I could’ve been his friend.”

“You can’t blame yourself.”

Horror washed through him. “Yes, I can. This is my fault. I wanted to break something today. I broke Minos.”

Edward put a calming hand to his shoulder. “Dearest, it’s not your fault.”

“We don’t know that for certain. We all should know better by now. All of us. We have to stick together, make sure everyone’s okay.”

Pages or Words: 128,000 words

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Tour Dates: February 19, 2015

Tour Stops: Parker Williams, Velvet Panic, Inked Rainbow Reads, The Hat Party, Bayou Book Junkie, Molly Lolly, Fallen Angel Reviews, BFD Book Blog, Cate Ashwood, MM Good Book Reviews, Boys on the Brink Reviews, Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents, Bending The Bookshelf, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Nephylim

 

Contest: Enter to win a Rafflecopter Prize: PDF Copy of ‘The Phoenix Embryo’. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

Rafflecopter Code:
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A Sammy Review: The Mechanical Chrysanthemums by Felicitas Ivey

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

Mechanical Chrysanthemums coverHachisuka Narihiro is the nephew to the shogun and the squad leader of the Tokugawa Chrysanthemum, a group of men who run machines known as musha. He is also one of the few men who speaks not only his countries native language, but also English and Dutch. Perfect to help when it comes to gaining information from the impending Americans.

With the Americans comes as Pennsylvania Dutch man named Maarten Zook. Unlike the other Americans, he is courteous to cultural traditions and has a certain allure that Hiro just can’t seem to turn away. But it’s a volatile time in the country, and with tension between the Americans and Nippon, getting close to an American is dangerous.

He had fallen in love with Maarten, but Kiyoshi was right, it was a love as unreal and pure as the northern snow. They had treated one another as if they were made out of glass. It could have grown to the love men had for one another, aware, very aware of the lust and life that such a relationship would have.

This story mixes aspects of steampunk with alternative history. Being a fan of such things myself, I was excited to give it a try, and unfortunately it missed a few notes for me.

To be perfectly clear, the story is well written and I think the author had the start of some very good world building, but as is the case in many short stories, it was just not the right length to provide the story that the author was giving. Most of the story concerned the details of life in Nippon, as well as political problems that were occurring between two countries. The relationship was truly secondary, and oddly enough, it felt a bit out of place to me in the entire thing. I felt like I was reading about the problems between America and Nippon, not reading a romance between two men. There’s steam at the end, but beyond that, it’s really not what I would consider a romance.

In the end, it just wasn’t right for me, but it may be for someone else.

The cover art by Anne Cain is fitting for the story. There are elements of mechanical parts, a figure that is likely a musha, and of course two men. I do think that it could’ve used some more care when it comes to blending, but as far as fitting the story goes, it works.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press    All Romance      Amazon     Buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 90 pages
Published January 14th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press LLC
ISBN139781632164933
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com

Review: Lofty Dreams of Earthbound Men (Isleshire Chronicles #1) by Susan Laine

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Rating: 3 stars (rounded up) out of 5

Lofty Dreams of Earthbound Men coverObadai Bashim is walking through one of the city’s parks on his way to the solstice celebration when he hears someone calling him. That voice belongs to a young boy, clothes in tatters, who begs for his help.   Jules Sterling, a young engineering sage, has been on the run from The Theocracy’s assassin since his master was killed by the ripper who is now after him.

The political instability between the Five Kingdoms and the Divine Theocracy has always stayed far from County Isleshire where tolerance and freedom from religious persecution has been the norm.  But now the Theocracy has gotten bold under the complacency of the Five Kingdoms rulers and they threaten to overturn the years of acceptance and freedom to destroy all science in the name of their religious doctrine.

Jule’s Engineering Guild is the target of the Theocracy and the death of his master is just the beginning.  For Jules is hiding a larger secret, one that he must protect as well as finish the job that he and his master had been contracted for….repairing a broken  airship inn.  If Jules can’t make the repairs the entire airship will crash at the solstice celebrations, killing many.

Obadai has his own secrets, ones that could make him the object of one of the Theocracy’s hunts.  So will helping Jules finish his mission.  But Obadai’s sense of duty and the attraction he feels towards Jules makes Obadai agree to help.   With the ripper on their trail and an airship beginning to founder, Jules and Obadai face a multitude of obstacles before them.  But its the Solstice and magic is in the air and anything is possible under the stars.

After reading Susan Laine’s Acknowledgement page for this novel and learning that this has been a beloved project of hers for over 20 years, I really wanted to like this story, if for no other reason that to reward her diligence and creativity.  But unfortunately I have had to work hard to get past the narrative which is so dense, so jam packed as to be impenetrable.  You know the author is in trouble when this is the start of the story.  Look how quickly the action turns into a morass of descriptions:

 A small shape climbed out of the bushes, nothing more than a silhouette. “Please, don’t hurt me.” The tiny voice cracked. It was a masculine voice, but shaky, scared, and on the verge of tears.

“Who are you? Why were you following me?” Obadai asked just as the midnight bells rang in the Abbey’s clock tower, their deep, gloomy sound echoing throughout the fortress town of Dunbruth. Everyone knew that the chartered town’s name was old Scottish Gaelic. The founder of Larkhall—the old bailey and keep—Sir Ector Macaledon, had been of Scottish descent, a rogue who had been granted this faraway county to rule as an Earl. The initial town name had been longer, Dùnan Bruthach Súmaid, which meant “Small Fortress on a Steep Slope of Waves.” The current form had been abbreviated and twisted by time, wrongly, as it happened. It was supposed to mean “A Fort on Surf Mountain” since the hilltop castle stood on the summit of Surf Mountain—but because the word bruthach didn’t abbreviate correctly, the literal translation was “A Fortress on Pressure.” Considering the crazy times, it had begun to make insane sense. Of course, all that business with Sir Ector had happened seven hundred years ago and had no bearing on the events of tonight. The Dunbruth Clocktower chimed for midnight mere moments after the Abbey bells, more melodic and higher in pitch, like a cheerful echo to the prior darker rings.

.And that is only the beginning.  Each time a small step forward is made toward momentum in the plot, the author inability to restrain herself from giving the readers what is clearly 20 years of thoughts about her universe building steps in.  From that moment the plot is gone, smothered under endless details and nonsensical names.  It becomes almost impossible to concentrate on the characters because we see so little of them from page to page.  The action gets underway, the characters start making their way towards the airship.  All good, with some really terrific scenarios and ideas sketched out before us.   Then this happens.  Again, And again.  Here is  Obadia trying to explain to Jules how the Snow Maiden Bridge (a bridge they have to cross) got its name. Keep in mind that the killer is on their tracks, the airship is about to fall and they have just met.  See if you can follow it:

“No, I guess not,” Jules agreed slowly, wistfully. Then he studied Obadai with a curious frown. “I thought it was called Stone Maiden Bridge. Yet you call it Snow Maiden Bridge. Every time.”

Obadai chuckled. “Both are correct. It’s a matter of personal preference what to call that huge block of stone on the side of Surf Mountain, from where the lake waters spring and which vaguely resembles a gray-cloaked nun bent over in prayer. Sir Ector brought the myth of the Cailleach here with him from his native Scotland. It has become rooted here, part of the local folklore.” Jules’s eyes widened with bemusement. “What is a…Kai-luck…?” His voice rose at the end in a question, indicating his doubts about proper enunciation. “In Scottish mythology, Cailleach is the Crone Goddess and the Queen of Winter.” “Ah. The Snow Maiden.” Jules looked pleased at having figured it out. “Exactly.” Obadai was becoming quite fond of the sight of a smiling Jules. “Also known as the Storm Hag, Cailleach is a terrifying natural force. Wise but frightening, a blue-skinned figure wielding a freezing staff and clad in a gray shawl and cloak.” “Gray… Hmm. Stone Maiden?” Jules seemed pensive and intrigued. “Kind of. Cailleach reigns during the winter months. Then, during the vernal equinox, she is defeated by the radiance and warmth of St. Aestasia.”

Jules’s eyes shone with glee upon hearing a familiar name. “I know her! She’s the patron saint of the Virtue of Benevolence with Fervor.” “Yes. A pioneer in charitable works, she had a passion for kindness and doing good. Here, in County Isleshire, as the Sun Maiden, she embodies the victory of summer over winter, a lady of fire, light, and heat. At the equinox, St. Aestasia turns the Cailleach into stone, to be awakened again during the autumnal equinox.” Jules nodded, smiling. “Ah. Stone Maiden.” He got a faraway look in his dreamy eyes. “So many stories here, so much history and legend. Almost makes me forget the troubles we’re in. At least makes me hopeful of things to come.”

Do they now get underway?  No, they do not as pages of more description is to follow which does nothing to build any anticipation over the impending crash or suspense over the killer after them.  Long run on sentences in which Laine attempts to further describe universe she is building quickly impede her story. Instead of letting the information come out more naturally throughout the narrative, in small bits and segments, the rush to get everything she has created comes out as a gusher, washing characterization and plot out of its path.   Never has 76 pages felt so long. Plus, this the first book of a series, surely some of the information dump could have been left to succeeding stories.

There are some truly delightful elements here, ones that I expected from the author of Sparks & Drops.  Obadia is a type of plant mage (although he has another title which I won’t give away).  In his garden can be found Snapdragons. No, not our snapdragons but plants capable of snapping in two the hand that feeds them the fertilizer, a very funny and engaging idea (at least to this gardener’s mind).  And then there is a wow of a fight scene on the floating inn that is marvelous in combining action with other unexpected elements.  As I was reading it, I kept wondering why the rest of the book was so enervating. Here was the vivid descriptions, concise and exciting I had been waiting for.  Here the characters exploded into life along with the plot.  Too late, however, to save the story.

There is also a case of instant love and hot sex (yes, all in 3 hours of meeting each other,  with fights and killers).  In fact the whole time frame of the story is three hours. In another story that might have been a larger issue.  Not here where  so many others took precedent.

Why did the fight scene not save the book?  Because the author couldn’t let go, even then.  This is almost the end and Obadia introduces Jules to a man who will help them.

Quickly, Obadai expressed his opinion of the nobleman they had just met. “Yes, he can be trusted. Mr. Graham is a scientist himself. A dendrologist only, but still apparently on the Theocracy’s watch list. Residing in a manor house by the village of Sun Rock these days, the House Dikunu has a history of shielding sages and inventors from the clutches of those who oppose factual knowledge, scientific progress, or just freedom of choice. They’ve even waged a war or two for those ideals in the course of the past couple of centuries, and they have loyal soldiers at their beck and call. So yes, I do trust him.” Jules nodded, lifting his chin firmly.  “Then I shall trust him as well.”

Laine should have stopped at “yes, he can be trusted” but of course, she didn’t.  I should have stopped when I saw each chapter was  labeled thusly and didn’t.

“11:59 p.m., Newsday, 24th of Golden Peak, Year 2659 of Epoch of Pious Virtues”

You the reader now have the choice.  If everything you have read above is just the thing that tickles your fancy, then grab it up and settle down for several hours, no days, of reading.  If you are like me and found all that verbiage overwhelming, then I would skip it and read Susan Laine’s Sparks & Drops (The Wheel Mysteries, #1).  There be the magic not here in the Lofty Dreams of Earthbound Men where it should be.

Cover artist is Paul Richmond who did his typcially wonderful job in conveying elements of the story on the cover.

Book Details:

ebook, 76 pages
Published January 29th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published January 28th 2014)
ISBN13 9781627983716
edition language English
series Isleshire Chronicles